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An Eclectic Digest of Science, Art and Literature



Modified: 2017-08-21T04:55:00Z

 



A Conversation With Steph Burt and Carmen Giménez Smith, The Nation's New Poetry Editors

2017-08-21T22:26:31Z

by Justin E. H. Smith Carmen Giménez Smith & Steph Burt Photos by Evan Lavender-Smith & Jessica Bennett On August 7, The Nation announced the appointment of Steph Burt and Carmen Giménez Smith as its new poetry editors. Beginning in...by Justin E. H. Smith Carmen Giménez Smith & Steph Burt Photos by Evan Lavender-Smith & Jessica Bennett On August 7, The Nation announced the appointment of Steph Burt and Carmen Giménez Smith as its new poetry editors. Beginning in the Fall, they will be soliciting and commissioning a wide range of American and international poetry, and will begin accepting submissions on September 15.  Steph Burt is Professor of English at Harvard University, and the author of several books of poetry and criticism, including The Poem Is You (Harvard University Press, 2016).  Carmen Giménez Smith is Professor of English at Virginia Tech, a CantoMundo fellow, and the author of a memoir and four poetry collections, including Milk and Filth, a finalist for the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award. On August 15, Carmen and Steph joined Justin E. H. Smith by Skype to talk about their work to come at The Nation, and about poetry in America.  * * * Justin E. H. Smith: What is poetry doing in The Nation? Does it fit within a unified mission that the magazine has, or is it something more like a breath of fresh air that one can take while absorbing all the difficult news? How do you see it? Steph Burt: That's a good question. There are a couple of answers I'd want to give to that. The first is that different poems do different things. Carmen and I are only going to print poems we like a lot. But we're not going to like them all for the same reasons. I assume that you like more than one kind of food and my guess is that you listen to more than one kind of music, and that you like different foods and different kinds of music for different reasons. This is sort of the argument of the book about how to read poetry that I'm working on now, so we're talking about that at the same time as we're talking about poetry at The Nation. Different poems do different things. We might print a poem that is a breath of fresh air and a break from thinking abut the struggle against white supremacy; and then we might print a poem whose subtle, careful way of examining language and history shows us how complicated the roots of the problem of white supremacy are; and then we might print a third poem that is a turning-it-up-to-eleven, articulate expression of the need to stay outraged. Those are three good kinds of poem. Three poems in one issue might be a bit much, though if they're short we could do that. Take another urgent problem of politics and culture that The Nation frequently addresses: we might print a poem about the delights of a fruit orchard; we might then print another poem that is a very cold, scientific look at how the earth has changed; and we might print another poem whose emotional undercurrent is, Holy cow! Miami's going to be underwater really soon. Those are three poems that all address the same urgent issue, that's a political issue, but in three different ways, one of which might seem non-political if you're looking at it in a certain way. It is true that in some sense everything is political. It is true in another sense that if the only question you ask about something in your life is, How can I address this as a matter of public policy? Or, How can I address this as a community activist? that's not a life, as someone who is concerned with public policy and with communities, that I want anyone in my community to have to live. So poetry in general can speak to what we need to do together, and it can speak to the lives and the experiences that it is the job of politics to make possible. Carmen Giménez Smith: I think poetry has always had a role in social-justice movements, and I think rhetorically that there is a way in which theoretical approaches and descriptions, and reportage-based work is vital to changing the world. But I also think that there's a kind of new world-build[...]



If Trump Represents The Worst Of Us, Does That Mean We’re Totally F-ed?

2017-08-21T09:52:48Z

OK, so here we have a racist bigot, a sexist serial assaulter of women, an utter crook, who had to settle the fraud of Trump University for $50 million bucks, a braggart who cheats in his golf game, a man devoid of morals, a fat lump of loathsome excrement, and he is our president.by Evert Cilliers America voted for Donald Trump. In fact, 53% of America's women voted for a serial pussy-grabber. And twice as many American working class men voted for a man who habitually stiffed his suppliers than for Hillary. I actually met someone whose Dad supplied Donald Trump with 200 pianos for his hotels, Trump didn't pay him, and the guy's business went kerflooey. That's how bad Trump is. You can meet people in your every day life here in Manhattan that he conned and cheated and pussy-grabbed and fucked up their innocent asses. So the fact that he gave the KKK, the neo-Nazis, and the white supremacists at Charlottesville a bit of a pass by saying there were others there who only wanted to defend the right of Confederate general statues to publicly exist — there were not, ALL those marchers were ONLY well-organized KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists — should be no surprise. (Though he was right that there were violence perpetrators among the counter-demonstrators there — the Antifa, whom he ignorantly dubbed the "alt-left".) We wanted him as our president. What does that say about us? Does that say out loud that we are a nation of bigots, sex assaulters, crooked businessmen, fraudsters, and cheaters at golf? Yes. Absolutely. That's what we are. And does that mean we're totally fucked? Yes. Absolutely. Let's run it down. 1. All the ways the USA is bad Welcome to America, the real one we think we're not, but we actually are. Look in the mirror, Americans. See who lives here on our continent. Here lives the only nation on earth born from two crimes against humanity: the dispossession and genocide of the original native Americans, and the harvesting of African people to serve as slaves of a brutal white race. Here lives a nation so savage, they turned upon each other in the deadliest civil war in human history, in which one out of ten men of military age became very dead. Here more people die from gunfire than anywhere else on earth. Here lives a quarter of all prisoners on earth, even though America represents only a twentieth of the world's population. Here you can torture people -- even unto death -- and get away with it. Here animals suffer more cruelty than anywhere else on our planet, in factory farms that stick cattle and pigs and chickens in confined stalls where they cannot move, walk or run for their entire lives, eating and shitting where they stand, till the day they're slaughtered. Here you can be a war criminal and still get on TV to plead your case. Here you can wreck the economy with fraudulent derivatives, causing a hundred million folks all over the world to lose their jobs, and get bailed out for your criminal activities by the folks you ruined, without fear of prosecution. Here lives the wealthiest family on earth, who own more than the bottom 40% of Americans, who are the biggest employers in America, and who don't pay their employees enough to eat, so their workers have to go on public assistance for food stamps, costing taxpayers $6.2 billion a year. The Waltons of Walmart, happily mooching off taxpayers for their profits. Such is the chasm between the 1% and the 99% in America, the most unequal of all the developed countries. Here rich people pay 13% of their income in taxes while people who are not rich pay 35%. Here, in the richest country on earth, one in five children go hungry. Here women work in the only industrialized country that doesn't have paid maternity leave: their country doesn't value motherhood. Here more than 70% of Americans aren't confident that their children's generation will do better than them – poof! there goes the American dream. Today middle-class families in America are worth less than they were in 1969. Here, with [...]



perceptions

2017-08-21T04:40:00Z

Michael Stamm. Untitled. 2015-now. More here and here.

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Michael Stamm. Untitled. 2015-now.

More here and here.

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Report from an Academy 2: Charlatans, Failures, and Frauds

2017-08-21T09:50:17Z

by Paul North With the previous post I began a new series, cognominated "Reports from an Academy." The reports are pure fiction. Imagine, if you would, a middle-aged professor of literature at an elite institution, call it Nevahwen University. Each...by Paul North With the previous post I began a new series, cognominated "Reports from an Academy." The reports are pure fiction. Imagine, if you would, a middle-aged professor of literature at an elite institution, call it Nevahwen University. Each month, worrying that it will all be over soon, a slipshod, unsystematic professor still in his good years, or so they tell him, pens a bulletin to the outside, without much hope anybody will receive it. Nevahwen is the school's name as well as its motto. Will the conflict between understanding the world and becoming successful in the world finally be decided in favor of understanding? This is the professor's eternal question. He asks: when? Wen? In a cynical mood, his answer is: Nevah. Nevahwen. Postcards from the front lines of a battle over the future—at the clash site of two generations, two or more economic classes, and in the midst of these conflicts, tiptoeing along a schism between the value of understanding and the value of success—postcards from the schism, these reports portray experiences that may be hard for those at home to fathom. Take them as proof the professor is still alive. Take them as recognitions of failure or declarations of hope. Take them as you will. Charlatans, Failures, and Frauds These three undesirables have one thing in common, they don't live up to expectations. What seems full of promise turns out to be empty. The product is different than you anticipated, worse than you wanted; promises turn out to be either fast talk, impotence, or lies. Charlatans, failures, and frauds: we want none of them in this Academy. Or, more precisely, we accept a certain amount of failure, but only if it is limited in scope, and it is really only tolerable if failure points the way to success. We must always learn from our mistakes. We must always learn from our mistakes. Today I report on a point of indistinction. There is a point, hard to reach, even harder to recognize, when the three—charlatan, failure, fraud—become virtually indistinguishable. At this dicey point, someone presents an experiment, a historical thesis, a speculative proposal and neither you nor anyone else can tell whether the hypothesis is trumped up, whether the scientist or researcher has talked themselves into something they will later repudiate and regret, whether the world is simply not as they say and the thesis is flat wrong, or whether they are lying to themselves and as a consequence to others. It is a moment of high dubiousness. Then again, it is also a moment of possibility, where something unexpected could happen. We are not accusing our colleagues in the profession of anything. In fact, they show the utmost in professionalism, thoroughness of research, methodological rigor, and integrity. Yet there used to be a type… There used to be a type, a type that lived up to the moniker "profess-or." Researchers of this type professed to know while not yet quite knowing for sure and tried then to help the world to conform to their somewhat idle talk. Concentrate on your picture of the "charlatan." We will look at one in particular, who was in some ways inside the Academy, and in other ways very much at its outer limits, a charlatan, if you want to call him that, who still, 100 years later, sits right in that dubious zone, whose results are equal parts highly improbable and full of possibility. Paul Kammerer, the experimental biologist, from about 1904 to 1926, when he committed suicide, had the intention to prove the Lamarckian theory of evolution, or, from a different perspective, he accidentally discovered that Lamarckianism was true. We can't say which. To this day, Kammerer's story causes academics to condemn him once and for all as a frau[...]



Heather Heyer & Charlottesville: White America's Thirst for White Martyrs of Racial Violence

2017-08-21T09:49:09Z

by Akim Reinhardt It began with Emmett Till. He was a fourteen year old black boy from Chicago visiting relatives in Mississippi in 1954 when two white men lynched him to death for whistling at a white woman. That in... by Akim Reinhardt It began with Emmett Till. He was a fourteen year old black boy from Chicago visiting relatives in Mississippi in 1954 when two white men lynched him to death for whistling at a white woman. That in itself, sadly, wasn’t so unusual. Thousands of African Americans were lynched to death during the first half of the 20th century. What was different about this particular lynching was his mother’s response. Till’s mother demanded her son’s body be returned to Chicago instead of getting a quick burial in Mississippi. She then insisted upon an open-casket funeral so the world could see what they had done to her boy. The black press covered the funeral as upwards of 50,000 black mourners passed by the coffin. Jet magazine and The Chicago Defender newspaper published photos of his body, mutilated almost beyond recognition. Afterwards, mainstream (white) national publications also ran the pictures and covered the story in depth, and Emmett Till entered the larger white consciousness as a martyr of racial violence. Needless to say, there have been countless black (and Latinx and Indigenous and Asian) victims of racial violence in America over the last four centuries. How many black people have been killed or maimed by whites for, essentially, being black? The number is impossible to know. As an American historian, I suspect that tens of thousands would be an underestimate. When considering the ravages of slavery and decades of subsequent lynch violence, the number could easily be in the hundreds of thousands. Yet prior to Emmett Till, almost none of them ever entered white consciousness as martyrs. Till became the first, the token black, the only one from among the countless thousands who most white people ever learned about in school or could cite by name. That slavery and Jim Crow repression wrought horrible violence was no secret. But upon whom, specifically? In the 1960s, Till was joined in this sad canon only by Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers (briefly), and Malcolm X (only to a minority of whites). However, with the death of King in 1968, white consciousness considered the civil rights era over, largely went into hiding on the issue of race, and stopped acknowledging new black martyrs of white racial violence. Why? White self-satisfaction with the end of the civil rights movement undoubtedly played a large role. Many white Americans were apt to say: We had a racial problem, we dealt with it, we moved on. However, there’s more to it than that. Particularly for the tens of millions of white Americans who recognize that racism is still a problem, a basic tension emerged after the civil rights movement. One of the civil rights movement’s major achievements has been that mass American culture now publicly marks racism as “wrong.” As a result, the vast majority of Americans do not want to be racist, and certainly do not want to be seen as racist. Even blatant racists such as Donald Trump fervently insist they are not racist. Indeed, almost no Americans, barring the small rabble of Klansmen and neo-Nazis we saw represented at Charlottesville, will ever publicly admit to being racist. At the same time, however, about three-quarters of all Americans recognize that racism is still a problem. And so the large majority of Americans realize that racism exists while almost no one admits to being racist. This tension creates a disconnect for many white Americans. They know there is racism in America. But since neither they nor anyone they know admits to being racist, racism becomes largely invisible to white people in daily life, and is dispersed into the social ether. With most white people denying they are racist and rarely encountering any open racists, white conscio[...]



Not Talking About Affirmative Action

2017-08-21T09:46:38Z

by Michael Liss I don't want to talk about affirmative action. It's a messy, horrible topic. I just don't want to talk about it. But earlier this month, the New York Times reported on a new Jeff Sessions initiative to...by Michael Liss I don't want to talk about affirmative action. It's a messy, horrible topic. I just don't want to talk about it. But earlier this month, the New York Times reported on a new Jeff Sessions initiative to hire political appointees for the DOJ's Civil Rights Division for "investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination." By "intentional race-based discrimination," the AG means race-based discrimination against races other than African Americans or Latinos. And I don't want to go there. Republicans, largely speaking off the record, see this as a win for Sessions personally, as it pleases Trump at a time where Trump-pleasing might be important for Sessions. And it's a win for the GOP, where affirmative action is broadly unpopular not only among party members, but also with more moderate suburban middle and upper middle class voters who approach the college application period with dread. I'm still not going to going to be sucked in. Sessions' motives and whatever political calculations they reflect are irrelevant. The historical record on the systematic exclusion of minorities is an irrefutable disgrace, but, when it comes to remedies, particularly their legality, reasonable people can disagree. Either affirmative action is Constitutionally permissible, or it isn't, and the Supreme Court gets to make that decision. To be technical, there's no such thing as affirmative action—it's been banned by the Supreme Court since the Regents vs Bakke decision in 1978. What has been permitted, although narrowed by an increasingly conservative Court (see last year's 4-to-3 decision in Fisher v. University of Texas) is that universities can continue using race as one of multiple factors in their admissions decisions. This is what Sessions is targeting. He really isn't talking about pure merit—he's fine with the 21 other herbs and spices that are the alchemy of determining an incoming Freshman—but race will be out, and he's prepared to use the considerable power, and budget, of the DOJ to make sure it stays out. What's next? It's not hard to predict that a lot of people who are enthusiastic about Sessions' goal will be end up being both disturbed and disappointed. Until the Supreme Court rules, he can't just snap his fingers and erase any and all considerations of race in the process. And, even if he were given an unlimited budget to pursue this, he wouldn't be able to investigate hundreds of colleges. The best he can do in the short term is to mount a few selective prosecutions of those he sees as excessively friendly to minority applications, and, by extension, hope to intimidate/influence the rest into altering their stated policies. But here's his real problem (and it's the problem of applicants who expect to benefit from the new policy): The existence of a stated "pro-minority" process is easy to prove. Demonstrating the adverse impact of it on an individual basis as means of achieving redress might be much more difficult. To do that, to find out who really benefited and who was "wronged," he's going to need a lot of personal and granular data on every applicant, not just minorities, and then try to reverse engineer the admissions calculus, substituting his own views of who is worthy for the judgment of the school. I suspect that this particular exercise will cause quite a bit of unhappiness. As every parent with a high-school-aged child knows, there are no completely objective admissions standards. There are grades, and test results, and every other resume-stuffer that parents can think about, and then there are the "hooks. Were Dad and Grandpa alumni? Is your family ready to endow a Chair? Can you bench press 370 whil[...]



CATSPEAK

2017-08-21T09:42:35Z

by Brooks Riley

by Brooks Riley

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The leadership dilemma of AI...or...Leadership, the Next Generation.

2017-08-21T09:40:07Z

by Sarah Firisen Watch this video. No, I mean, right now, go and watch this video, I’ll wait. Even if you don’t agree with all of it, even if you think it’s unnecessary scaremongering, you should still find it thought...by Sarah Firisen Watch this video. No, I mean, right now, go and watch this video, I’ll wait. Even if you don’t agree with all of it, even if you think it’s unnecessary scaremongering, you should still find it thought provoking and at least a little scary (most people find it terrifying), and if you don't, then you’re really not paying attention. If you can’t be bothered to watch it, the basic premise is that we are very very quickly, far quicker than most of us realize, moving towards a world with so much automation that “Humans need not apply” for most jobs. That we are moving towards a very near-term future where humans, like horses in the past, aren’t just unemployed, they’re unemployable. Bill Gates famously wrote, “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don't let yourself be lulled into inaction." It might be tempting to brush off predictions of a future without human work. And indeed, today, the likelihood of such a future does depends who you ask; the US government says not to worry (and this was before the current science denying administration), the UK government is less convinced. By some predictions, more than half the human race could be unemployed, and more importantly unemployable, by as early as 2045. Uber recently bought Otto, an autonomous truck company. In October 2016 they made their first delivery, 50,000 beers. In the US alone there are 3.5 million truck drivers. That’s a lot of jobs and a lot of people to find additional employment for, but it’s not half the human race by any standards - even though transportation is the largest employment category in the world. Nevertheless, maybe it’s just, as the UK Science and Technology Committee says, that “Human beings must develop new skills to compete in a world where artificial intelligence is becoming more prevalent”. This is hardly a new problem; the 19th century Luddites were a group of English workers who destroyed machinery, particularly in the mills, because they feared it would take their livelihood away from them. They were right, it did, but those weren’t great jobs. Mill work was strenuous, poorly paid labor that often led to chronic, sometimes fatal illnesses. The industrial revolution eventually significantly increased the standard of living for the general population. The prediction of Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers is that "AI will grow the economy instead of take jobs away. While some jobs may disappear, AI will create new jobs and consumer demand for new products and services”. But while there may be some truth to that, this isn’t like the Victorian industrial revolution, this is different, both in scale and in the kinds of jobs that are already being automated. One big difference is that now it’s not just manual jobs at the lower end of the education scale that are being automated. Today, artificial intelligence, and more specifically machine learning, have advanced to the point where robots are increasingly doing more traditional white collar jobs. And they’re not just doing them as well as people, increasingly, they’re doing them better: IBM’s Watson recently diagnosed a rare form of Leukaemia in a patient that doctors were unable to diagnose. Honestly, the list of blue collar and professional jobs that can now be automated to one extent or another is so long that I could spend this entire article just listing them and still not be done. Suffice it to say, whatever job you do, odds are significant portions of it are at risk for automation of[...]



Ending the forever war on drugs, pt. 4: libertarianism and the nanny state

2017-08-21T09:36:30Z

by Dave Maier Previous installments: pt. 1, pt. 2, pt. 3 A few months back I wrote a letter to the editor of my local newspaper, the first time I had ever done that, and they printed it. A number...by Dave Maier Previous installments: pt. 1, pt. 2, pt. 3 A few months back I wrote a letter to the editor of my local newspaper, the first time I had ever done that, and they printed it. A number of legislators in my state had held a news conference announcing their plan to legalize, regulate, and tax the sale and use of marijuana in New Jersey. Unfortunately for them, our state’s governor, Chris Christie, has made it perfectly clear that he would veto any such bill, so that plan is on hold for now. (There is a gubernatorial election this year to replace the term-limited and in any case unprecedentedly unpopular Christie, and the highly favored Democratic candidate, one Phil Murphy, has indicated his support for legalization.) As the reporter noted, the legislators had made a big deal about how much tax revenue this plan would raise, and had suggested that this might be part of a solution to the state’s pension crisis. Governor Christie had of course rejected the idea, citing his belief that marijuana is a “gateway drug”, that supporters of legalization are “just stupid liberals who think that everything is okay” and that, especially during an opioid crisis, such tax revenue would amount to “blood money.” In my letter (they don’t allow you much space, so I had to be brief) I agreed with the Governor that if marijuana really is as bad as he believes, then we might very well be better off spurning the tax money that legalization would raise; but I also pointed him, and everyone else, to the online resources on the subject available at, for example, the Marijuana Policy Project (the paper doesn’t allow web addresses in their letters, but here I can link) – in particular, the careful refutation available there of the “gateway” theory (a theory which, one might note, even the DEA no longer endorses). I concluded with a plea that, given that this issue will (thanks to Murphy’s endorsement of the idea) be an important one in the fall campaign, we should all do our homework in order to show other states “how we do public policy in the Garden State.” Alas, my plea has fallen on deaf ears. In the past couple of weeks, there have been in the Bergen Record two op-eds and a number of letters on the issue, none of which (even the sensible ones) show any evidence of a whole lot of homework-doing. ... In the August 6 edition of the Record, columnist Mike Kelly published a long opinion piece called “But is it healthy to make America high again?”. For those of us who grew up in the Nixon/Reagan/G. H. W. Bush Drug War era, the tone of Kelly’s article is perhaps not what we would expect. During that time, you could not pick up Newsweek or the Reader’s Digest without seeing yet another breathless exposé about how smoking pot causes irreversible brain damage or sterility or inevitably leads to heroin addiction or turns you gay or (if you’re a boy) makes you grow breasts (no, I’m not making that up). So it’s a clear testament to changing times that, on the surface anyway, Kelly spurns time-honored prohibitionist preaching. It’s also odd for that same reason. Kelly’s rhetorical pose is that of a plea for caution in the face of a headlong rush to legalization. This requires him to suggest that no-one has ever thought of this before: would-be legalizers are [my emphasis] “ignoring all those concerns about basic health,” which are “rarely discussed”; “why aren’t we hearing these same [health] concerns”; the legalization movement must “open its eyes to the health problems”; and even “consider for a moment a counter-argument”. Kelly’s picture makes him look [...]



Ghost Dancing in the USA

2017-08-20T19:25:36Z

by Bill Benzon In 1889 a young Paiute Indian named Wovoka fell ill with a fever and, in his delirium, visited heaven. While there he talked with God and saw that all the Indians who had died were now young...by Bill Benzon In 1889 a young Paiute Indian named Wovoka fell ill with a fever and, in his delirium, visited heaven. While there he talked with God and saw that all the Indians who had died were now young and happy doing the things they had done before the White Man had come upon them. News of the new messiah spread rapidly among the remnants of the Indian tribes. If they danced the right dances, sang the right songs, and wore their consecrated Ghost Shirts, not only would they be immune to the White Man’s bullets, but their loved ones would return to them, the White Man would vanish from the face of the earth, and the buffalo would once again be plentiful. Their fervor and belief were not rewarded and the Ghost Dance, as this last wave of revivals came to be known, soon passed into history. That, however, is not the Ghost Dancing that concerns me. I mention it only to provide some comparative perspective. Anthropologists and historians have told that story hundreds if not thousands of times. It is the story of a people’s last desperate attempt to retain symbolic control over their world. Such revivals occur when a way of life has become impossible, for whatever reason, but the people themselves continue to live. In desperation they resort to magic to remake the world in terms they understand. The Ghost Dancing that concerns me is not that of Stone Age people displaced and conquered by iron-mongering and coal-burning industrialists. My concern is the Ghost Dancing that has become a major force in contemporary American cultural and political life. Widespread belief in the impending Rapture – when all good Christians will be taken to heaven and all unbelievers consigned to hell – is the most obvious manifestation of the contemporary Ghost Dance. But it is hardly the only manifestation. Refusal to accept evidence of global warning is another symptom, as was the refusal to attend to ground intelligence in conducting the war and reconstruction in Iraq. For that matter, belief that the so-called Singularity is at hand – when computers will surpass humans in intelligence – is Ghost Dancing as well. This type of Ghost Dancing may seem rather geekish and harmless, for there aren’t all that many of these particular believers. Belief in the Singularity, however, is close kin to continued belief in the feasibility of an effective anti-missile defense systems, in the Pentagon’s desire to develop a highly robotized military where the machines do the riskiest jobs, and in a more general belief that technology will fix everything. Contemporary American Ghost Dancing has not, of course, been occasioned by colonialism or conquest. The modern American way of life has not been destroyed by external enemies. America has become and still remains the strongest nation on earth. Our vulnerability has subtler sources. The American way of life has indeed suffered grievously in the past half-century. Perhaps the most substantial assault has been to our economy, with industrial and manufacturing jobs going overseas to be replaced by service jobs and high tech jobs. That has set off rolling economic displacement that will continue for the foreseeable future as many service and high tech jobs follow the steel industry to Asia and elsewhere while artificial intelligence swallows more and more jobs. The civil rights movement also forced major change. The struggle between liberty and racism is deep in the American soul, deeper than we can as yet comprehend. The civil rights movement changed America’s political culture in ways both good and unfortunate, and helped catalyze a wide [...]



God’s Gift to Men

2017-08-20T18:47:04Z

Zoë Heller in the New York Review of Books: Perhaps the greatest service that the director Patty Jenkins does her protagonist in Wonder Woman, the Warner Brothers blockbuster released this June, is to give her a new set of clothes....Zoë Heller in the New York Review of Books: Perhaps the greatest service that the director Patty Jenkins does her protagonist in Wonder Woman, the Warner Brothers blockbuster released this June, is to give her a new set of clothes. The female superhero has been charged with various ideological impurities over the years—jingoism, a too-cozy relationship with America’s military-industrial complex, an excessively heteronormative lifestyle—but by far the most frequent complaints have been about her man-pleasing, bondage-inflected get-up. Those go-go boots! Those bracelets of submission! That quivering embonpoint! It’s hard to be taken seriously as a feminist icon when the only thing you’ve got to wear to work is a star-spangled corset. The costume worn by Wonder Woman’s star, the Israeli actress and former beauty queen Gal Gadot, is altogether more stern. The kinky boots have been replaced by a pair of gladiatorial thigh-highs; the body suit, constructed out of some cunning alloy of spandex and bronze, is, if not quite armor, at least armor-themed. The outfit isn’t much less revealing, and only marginally more practical, than the old one. (It’s still strapless and her legs must still get rather chilly when she’s stalking villains in cold climates.) But it does at least communicate some martial ferocity and menace. Thus attired, Wonder Woman might plausibly intimidate even her haters at the UN. Sadly, whatever fresh potency she has acquired from the wardrobe department is offset by the film’s anxious insistence on demonstrating the femininity that lies beneath her breastplate. More here. [...]



Noam Chomsky: Antifa is a 'major gift to the Right'

2017-08-20T18:37:21Z

Steven Nelson in the Washington Examiner: The left-wing "Antifa" movement is rising in prominence after clashing with white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., but one progressive scholar says the anti-fascists feed the fire they seek to extinguish. "As for Antifa, it's...

Steven Nelson in the Washington Examiner:

(image) The left-wing "Antifa" movement is rising in prominence after clashing with white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., but one progressive scholar says the anti-fascists feed the fire they seek to extinguish.

"As for Antifa, it's a minuscule fringe of the Left, just as its predecessors were," Noam Chomsky told the Washington Examiner. "It's a major gift to the Right, including the militant Right, who are exuberant."

Many activists affiliated with the loosely organized Antifa movement consider themselves anarchists or socialists. They often wear black and take measures to conceal their identity.

Chomsky said, "what they do is often wrong in principle – like blocking talks – and [the movement] is generally self-destructive."

"When confrontation shifts to the arena of violence, it's the toughest and most brutal who win – and we know who that is," said Chomsky, a professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "That's quite apart from the opportunity costs – the loss of the opportunity for education, organizing, and serious and constructive activism."

More here.

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My fellow authors are too busy chasing prizes to write about what matters

2017-08-20T18:25:01Z

Amit Chaudhuri in The Guardian: The idea that a “book of the year” can be assessed annually by a bunch of people – judges who have to read almost a book a day – is absurd, as is the idea... Amit Chaudhuri in The Guardian: The idea that a “book of the year” can be assessed annually by a bunch of people – judges who have to read almost a book a day – is absurd, as is the idea that this is any way of honouring a writer. A writer will be judged over time, by their oeuvre, and by readers and other writers who have continued to find new meaning in their writing. The Booker prize is disingenuous not only for excluding certain forms of fiction (short stories and novellas are out of the reckoning), but for not actually considering all the novels published that year, as it asks publishers to nominate a certain number of novels only. What it creates is not so much a form of attention but a midnight ball. The first marketing instrument is the longlist (this year’s was announced last month): 13 novels arrayed like Cinderellas waiting to catch the prince’s eye. (Those not on the longlist find they’ve suddenly turned into maidservants.) When the shortlist is announced, the enchantment lifts from those among the 13 not on it: they become figments of the imagination. Then the announcement of the winner renders invisible, as if by a wave of the wand, the other shortlisted writers. The princess and the prince are united as if the outcome was always inevitable: at least such is, largely, the obedient response of the press. And the magic dust of the free market gives to the episode the fairytale-like inevitability Karl Popper said history-writing possesses: once history happens in a certain way, it’s unimaginable that any other outcome was possible. More here. [...]



Interview with Mariana Mazzucato

2017-08-20T18:24:24Z

Hilary Lamb interviews Mariana Mazzucato in Times Higher Education: What are the greatest misconceptions surrounding innovation policy? That innovation happens when the state gets out of the way. As I showed in The Entrepreneurial State, exactly the opposite is true.... Hilary Lamb interviews Mariana Mazzucato in Times Higher Education: What are the greatest misconceptions surrounding innovation policy? That innovation happens when the state gets out of the way. As I showed in The Entrepreneurial State, exactly the opposite is true. Many game-changing breakthroughs – the internet, biotechnology, nanotechnology and today’s emerging green technology – are the result of risk-taking, bold, entrepreneurial action by public sector institutions. But storytellers rule the world, and the idea of the lone, garage tinkerer triumphing against the odds is a great story. Steve Jobs coming up with the iPhone is a great story. But it’s only half true. Almost all the technological developments that made the iPhone possible were the result of state investments right along the innovation chain. You argue that government is a market shaper: what do you mean by this? Orthodox economics imagines a very limited role for the state in the economy – to fix market failures in areas where there is a clearly defined “public good”. But this model doesn’t do a very good job of describing how many public agencies have acted in the past, or of providing a policy framework for governments to apply the right lessons from Silicon Valley. From Darpa [the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] and SBIR [the Small Business Innovation Research programme] in the US to [the venture capital fund] Yozma in Israel, and Sitra [the Finnish Innovation Fund] and Tekes [the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation] in Finland, public agencies have actively shaped and created new markets. And arguably China is doing the same now with investments in new green technologies…instead of seeing policy as “intervening” in the market, we should see it as co-creating it. This also means that we need to be more vigilant about what is being created, and here civil society has a key role. More here. [...]



Sunday Poem

2017-08-20T12:37:09Z

Let Us Play Let’s dig tunnels. Let’s build bridges. Let’s get close like clouds of midges. What was under Mr Brunel’s hat? His love-letters And his sandwidges. Let us cross that big divide. Let us go and coincide. And with...Let Us Play Let’s dig tunnels. Let’s build bridges. Let’s get close like clouds of midges. What was under Mr Brunel’s hat? His love-letters And his sandwidges. Let us cross that big divide. Let us go and coincide. And with the space between deducted, Let us mind what’s been constructed. You provide the motion and I’ll start the debate. You provide the provender and I’ll supply the napkin             and the plate. Let’s combine this life of mine with your own             slender fate. Let me elaborate. Let’s be thick as thieves can be. Let’s thicken up the ice and then entice             the world to skate. You be narrow, I’ll be straight. You be weight and I’ll be volume. Let’s make a pair of zeros make a bigger figure eight. Let’s collaborate. by John Hegley from: Peace, Love and Potatoes publisher: Serpent's Tail, London, 2012 [...]



How did American Naziism begin?

2017-08-20T12:32:56Z

Randy Dotinga in Christian Science Monitor: On a February day in 1939, New York City cops gathered around Madison Square Garden to protect the 20,000 fascists inside and the surrounding protesters who numbered as many as 100,000. There wouldn't be...Randy Dotinga in Christian Science Monitor: On a February day in 1939, New York City cops gathered around Madison Square Garden to protect the 20,000 fascists inside and the surrounding protesters who numbered as many as 100,000. There wouldn't be a larger police presence in the city until 9/11. According to historian Arnie Bernstein, "the cops said they had enough men on hand to stop a revolution." The Nazi sympathizers in the arena, there to see the fascist German-American Bund organization, wouldn't have minded setting off a revolt. After all, in their minds, the man of the day – this was the Bund's “George Washington Birthday Celebration" – had helped spark a revolution as the "First American Fascist.” Outside, just as in Charlottesville, outraged protesters decried the hatred. "They were like what we saw in Charlottesville, a cross section of Americans," Bernstein says. "Young, old, black, white, Jew, gentile, people from political groups of all stripes, including Trotskyites and other fringe figures as well as more mainstream groups. It was a massive scene, and a few Bundists took punches as they left. Most tried to hide their identity as Bund members." The Bund and its toxic American fascism are largely forgotten now. But they were significant players in the America their time, says Bernstein, author of 2013's Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn and the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund. In a Monitor interview, Bernstein talks about the roots of the American fascist movement, the parallels to today, and why Americans should not despair. Q: What started this movement?  The German-American Bund was born out of various factions and groups that came into being during the 1920s post-war era, when Germans immigrants and descendants of previous immigrant generations in the US were faced with enormous prejudices. These groups looked back to the Fatherland, the rise of Hitler and National Socialism for inspiration. They adopted uniforms resembling those of SS and brownshirts, created family retreats where they could espouse their ideals in private with like-minded individuals, printed their own newspaper, and held parades among with other activities. The Bund was led by Fritz Kuhn, who labeled himself “the Bundesführer." Kuhn was a German immigrant himself and a Hitler loyalist. More here. [...]



Want to know where Trump’s “blame on both sides” rhetoric could lead? Look to Yugoslavia

2017-08-20T12:20:58Z

Catherine Baker in Prospect Magazine: The very day that ‘white identitarians’ called a rally in Charlottesville to protest against the recent removal of a monument to the Confederate leader Robert E. Lee, anti-fascist campaigners started warning it would bring white...Catherine Baker in Prospect Magazine: The very day that ‘white identitarians’ called a rally in Charlottesville to protest against the recent removal of a monument to the Confederate leader Robert E. Lee, anti-fascist campaigners started warning it would bring white supremacist violence to the city. That violence manifested last weekend when a man linked to the openly fascist group Vanguard America allegedly killed one activist, Heather Heyer, and injured at least 19 others with his car. Armed white nationalists also reportedly intimidated the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue and beat black and left-wing counter-protestors with the same torches that had created the spectacle of a neo-Nazi torchlight parade. Donald Trump’s remarks at a press briefing inside Trump Tower on Tuesday evening, however, shocked many journalists and politicians when he stated that “there’s blame on both sides”—narrating the violence in similar terms to those used by a New York Times reporter, who had tweeted about seeing “club-wielding ‘antifa’ beating white nationalists.” The left, Trump said, held equal responsibility for the violence with the alt-right. In stating there had been violence on “both sides” without any further context, Trump amplified the narrative of Charlottesville that white supremacists themselves had been telling the media—and employed the dangerous language of relativization. This sort of language is a familiar one to historians of the twentieth century: it is with the language of relativization that leaders responsible for ethnic conflict have disclaimed responsibility for planning and organizing the persecution of groups they have identified as enemies. Both the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, and Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, gave rise to persistent claims that there had been violence on all sides or “all sides had committed crimes.” Usually by design, these covered up how much stronger one side was than another, or which side had been most heavily implicated in the outbreak of war. More here. [...]



d. l. menard (1932 - 2017)

2017-08-20T08:10:00Z

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haruo nakajima (godzilla) (1929 - 2017)

2017-08-20T08:07:00Z

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barbara cook (1927 - 2017)

2017-08-20T08:03:00Z

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Unraveling the mystery of why people act as they do

2017-08-19T17:28:15Z

Michael Shermer in The American Scholar: Have you ever thought about killing someone? I have, and I confess that it brought me peculiar feelings of pleasure to fantasize about putting the hurt on someone who had wronged me. I am...Michael Shermer in The American Scholar: Have you ever thought about killing someone? I have, and I confess that it brought me peculiar feelings of pleasure to fantasize about putting the hurt on someone who had wronged me. I am not alone. According to the evolutionary psychologist David Buss, who asked thousands of people this same question and reported the data in his 2005 book, The Murderer Next Door, 91 percent of men and 84 percent of women reported having had at least one vivid homicidal fantasy in their life. It turns out that nearly all murders (90 percent by some estimates) are moralistic in nature—not cold-blooded killing for money or assets, but hot-blooded homicide in which perpetrators believe that their victims deserve to die. The murderer is judge, jury, and executioner in a trial that can take only seconds to carry out. What happens in brains and bodies at the moment humans engage in violence with other humans? That is the subject of Stanford University neurobiologist and primatologist Robert M. Sapolsky’s Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst. The book is Sapolsky’s magnum opus, not just in length, scope (nearly every aspect of the human condition is considered), and depth (thousands of references document decades of research by Sapolsky and many others) but also in importance as the acclaimed scientist integrates numerous disciplines to explain both our inner demons and our better angels. It is a magnificent culmination of integrative thinking, on par with similar authoritative works, such as Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel and Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature. Its length and detail are daunting, but Sapolsky’s engaging style—honed through decades of writing editorials, review essays, and columns for The Wall Street Journal, as well as popular science books (Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, A Primate’s Memoir)—carries the reader effortlessly from one subject to the next. The work is a monumental contribution to the scientific understanding of human behavior that belongs on every bookshelf and many a course syllabus. More here. [...]



Ali Sethi sings Ahmad Faraz's poem "Ranjish Hi Sahi" with a melody composed by Nizar Bazmi

2017-08-19T17:18:06Z

Video length: 6:10 And for comparison, here is Mehdi Hassan singing a longer version of the same: Video length: 12:45

Video length: 6:10

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And for comparison, here is Mehdi Hassan singing a longer version of the same:

Video length: 12:45

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Massive Rise Of Top Incomes Is Mostly Driven By Capital

2017-08-19T17:03:46Z

Matt Bruenig in People's Policy Project: In the New York Times, David Leonhardt shared a version of the following graph produced by Piketty, Saez, and Zucman as part of their Distributive National Accounts project. What the graph shows is that...Matt Bruenig in People's Policy Project:  In the New York Times, David Leonhardt shared a version of the following graph produced by Piketty, Saez, and Zucman as part of their Distributive National Accounts project. What the graph shows is that top incomes increased massively between 1980 and 2014, while the incomes of other groups grew much more slowly, with the vast majority of adults experiencing income gains below the national average. To supplement this graph, I have decomposed the income gains of the top 1 percent into capital and labor components. Capital refers to income received from owning assets: dividends from stock, interest from debt, and rents from real estate. Labor refers to income received from working: salaries and wages. What this decomposition shows is that the majority of income gains for the top 1 percent came from capital rather than labor. In fact, all top 1 percent income growth after 2000 came from capital. More here. [...]



On doing and allowing harm

2017-08-19T17:02:55Z

Richard Marshall interviews Fiona Wollard in 3:AM Magazine: 3:AM: Why don’t you think we could just take it as a basic fact that doing harm is ethically worse than allowing harm but not acting oneself? And if we don’t like... Richard Marshall interviews  Fiona Wollard in 3:AM Magazine: 3:AM: Why don’t you think we could just take it as a basic fact that doing harm is ethically worse than allowing harm but not acting oneself? And if we don’t like that, why not just accept there is no distinction and outside of our prejudiced intuitions? I guess the question is: why philosophise it and seek reasons? FW: Both those options seem really odd to me. On the one hand, the fact that doing harm is worse than allowing harm doesn’t feel like the kind of thing that could be a basic moral fact. I couldn’t take it as a basic moral fact that it is worse to perform harmful actions on Thursdays rather than Wednesday or to harm people with my left hand rather than my right hand. These suggests seem absurd. How could that difference matter morally? I think the doing/allowing distinction faces a similar challenge: when it is a we’re talking serious harm, when it might be a matter of life and death, how can the doing/allowing distinction make a difference? On the other hand, I think it would be overreacting to immediately retreat to simply accepting that there is no difference. Given the important role the doing/allowing distinction plays in common sense morality, we have to try to see if we can understand and defend it. 3:AM: You defend the notion that the distinction is morally relevant and you do this by introducing the idea of imposition. What is this notion and how does it help make the distinction play the role you defend? FW: My use of imposition is inspired by Frances Kamm. She notes that the difference between doing and allowing seems to be connected to a difference in order of imposition. She says: ‘If the same efforts had to be made to avoid killing as have to be made in order to save a life, they would be made to prevent the killer from imposing first on an innocent person. In contrast, the efforts made in saving would, in a sense, involve the innocent bystander being imposed on first for the dying person.’ More here. [...]



How to Get to Mars

2017-08-19T12:41:21Z

Note: This video was posted on 3quarksdaily five years ago by our co-editor Morgan Mies. Re-posting it today because in these chaotic times, it is good to be reminded of what beautiful things humans are capable of achieving. Please watch!...

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Note: This video was posted on 3quarksdaily five years ago by our co-editor Morgan Mies. Re-posting it today because in these chaotic times, it is good to be reminded of what beautiful things humans are capable of achieving. Please watch! Thanks Morgan.

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